PR professionals see endless surveys reporting on media relations trends, so it takes something truly surprising to make us stop and read a statistic twice. With that said, did you know that, according to PRM company Propel’s Media Barometer, journalists respond to less than 3% of pitches? Some journalists get up to 20-30 cold pitches per day, meaning it can often take at least 30 tries before you get a response. 

However, you should not compromise quality for quantity by flooding media representatives with even more emails. Instead, those numbers should show how tough it is for PR professionals to stand out from the crowd and underscore why they need to tailor their pitches.

Here are a few things to consider when crafting your next pitch.

Are You Making Technical Errors? 

Most pitching problems fall into two categories: technical or content mistakes. Fortunately, they’re easy to fix once you know what to look for. 

Technical problems include writing to the wrong journalist, not having a specific idea, or being too wordy. 

For instance, the subject line alone can determine if your pitch gets opened or deleted. Make your header short, impactful and clear. You’re more likely to see success if you don’t bury the lead.

Forgetting a call to action is a big mistake too. Close an email with a specific question such as, “Are you interested in exclusive coverage?” or “Would you like to set up a call with the speaker to discuss more details?” This prompts the recipient with a simple, specific action, improving your chances of getting a response and clearly showing what you want.

Ensure you connect with a writer who covers stories similar to the one you’re offering. Otherwise, you’ll never get them to answer your email and cover the story. Additionally, because there are so many potential ways to get coverage, you must clearly state what you offer to a journalist: An interview? An op-ed? A feature? Be specific to remove the extra pressure of guessing what you want. 

Finally, engage them in a straightforward conversation. Forget about useless connecting words and unnecessary details. Use that space instead to ask thought-provoking questions to encourage a response. For example, wrap up a podcast pitch by asking, “Would you like to schedule a short call to discuss topics with [my guest]?” This lets them know you’re ready to move quickly, have ideas in mind and are actively waiting for a response. 

Learn to Catch Common Content Errors

Content mistakes may take more practice to overcome. These are issues like irrelevance or lack of eye-catching figures, storytelling and drama.

Irrelevance is the number-one mistake you can make. According to Cision’s 2022 survey of 3,800 journalists, 68% say the vast majority of pitches they receive are irrelevant, and nearly that many cite relevant pitches as the thing they wish for most from PR pros. 

Another set of problems revolves around failing to create that initial spark of interest. If the journalist isn’t excited, they won’t want to cover your idea when they have so much other news. 

Excitement starts with your subject line, so learn how to craft a “clickbait” headline. Which email are you more likely to open? “I have no idea how I ended up on a radio show about old people, but…” or “Please review this pitch about popular radio shows.” You don’t have to be outrageous or corny; you just need to capture attention or evoke emotions (that first pitch probably made you laugh, right?). 

This is why you must master the art of storytelling. Use concrete figures to show how your company is solving a problem. Weave emotion, conflict and drama into your pitch to show why readers will be invested in your words. People need an emotional hook to connect to, starting with the journalist you’re writing. 

Another way to grab their interest is with multimedia pitches. When asked, 54% of reporters say they’re more interested in covering a story when the email already includes links to high-quality images, videos or infographics.

Now that you know what to look for, here are a few ways to immediately boost the quality of your ideas. 

5 Quick Tips For Improving Your Pitches 

1. Keep it short.

Reporters are busy, and Inc. notes that pitches 150 words or less are twice as likely to get a response. If you’re lucky enough to catch their attention, you must pack maximum impact into as few words as possible. Read and re-read your pitch to cut it down to only the essentials. Use colorful descriptors, powerful action statements, accessible links and easy-to-skim numbers. 

2. Stick with simplicity.

Always skip the professional slang and technical talk. Even if the writer covers your niche, simple is best. Speak to them like you’re talking to your grandmother; use short sentences and spell out any abbreviations. Don’t assume they know what you’re talking about.

3. Use bullet points and hyperlinks.

The faster they can skim your pitch for the highlights, the better chance you have of a response. Thinking in bullet points not only helps you write in a short, concise style, but it shows you respect the reporter’s time and makes them more willing to respond or open future pitches.

Add hyperlinks to support statements so they can fact-check with no extra effort. Streamlining that initial legwork goes a long way toward getting a positive reaction and helps establish a good rapport.

4. Personalize every pitch.

Mass mailing a copy/paste template is a quick way to get nowhere. Journalists get enough pitches to spot the low-effort ones immediately, and 43% cite spam as their top frustration with PR professionals. Yes, crafting a personalized message for each writer takes more time, but you will get a much better return on your investment this way. 

5. Be creative and do your homework.

Remember, you’re trying to catch a reporter’s attention and only have seconds to do so. Practice writing catchy subject lines, creative publication angles and fresh topics you think readers would like. 

Review the writer’s previous work to see what they like to cover, their style and which formats they most frequently use. Leverage this information to go the extra mile when tailoring your message to them. 

Often, pitching is a game of patience and perseverance. However, anyone can use these tips to improve their odds and get a better journalist response rate.